Allow me to start out by saying that no matter how much you think you don’t need sleep, you do. You are not Jason Bourne. If you are Jason Bourne, my apologies, carry on.
One of the most underestimated tools or life-hacks is the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene. It seems the less we sleep, the more time we have in the day to finish our tasks. As it turns out, our bodies do not work this way. Our bodies require six to eight hours of sleep every night. Sleeping fewer than that has been linked with weight gain and obesity, type two diabetes, and heart disease among various other conditions that are detrimental to our health. This article describes steps you can take to improve sleep hygiene and ensure adequate rest. Some of this advice will not come easy, but that is okay because we will take it one step at a time.
Tip #1: How (Not) to Consume Caffeine Responsibly
Caffeine is a stimulant that allows us to be more productive. Caffeine comes in all shapes and sizes from pills to soda to various tea preparations (including iced tea). It is very possible to consume caffeine without even realizing it. The time it takes for 50% of the effect of caffeine to wear off is 5-6 hours. For this reason, I would recommend avoiding caffeine after 2 PM.
Tip #2: The Bed is Only for Sleep & Sex
With the turn of the century, electronic devices have become smaller and more prevalent. Today, it is not uncommon to have a television, smart phone, laptop, and a tablet all in the same room. These devices all emit blue light. Studies have shown that this light decreases levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps with sleep and decreases the amount of restful sleep. In addition, these devices give us the ability to remain mentally engaged and stimulated for hours at a time. Before you know it, midnight has crawled around and you had been in bed since 9 PM. Experts recommend that the bed is for sleep and sex only. I personally tell patients to move the television set out of the bedroom and charge all electronics in another room in order to improve their sleep hygiene.
Tip #3: Ditch the Xanax & Martinis for Better Sleep
The next thing that can make a huge impact on sleep is the use of alcohol and sleep aides. While it may seem that using these substances help you sleep, in actuality, they worsen sleep hygiene by reducing the amount of restful sleep that one receives. In the short term you may not even notice it, however in time this lack of restful sleep accumulates and makes you less productive and more fatigued. Alcohol, sleep aides, and medications like Xanax (alprazolam) and Ativan (lorazepam) have the potential to do more harm than good for your sleep hygiene.
Tip #4: Can’t Sleep? Get Out of Bed
Insomnia also has a way of playing psychological warfare. If you lie in bed for prolonged periods of time attempting to sleep, your mind will naturally wander and you will find yourself planning tomorrow’s to-do list. Over time your brain will begin to associate the bed and night time as a time for mental activity. Instead if you find yourself lying in bed, I recommend leaving the bedroom and finding something else to do for thirty minutes and then try to fall asleep again. If again you find you cannot sleep, rinse and repeat. Eventually your mind will break the subconscious association.
Sleep plays one of the most important roles in our health both psychologically and physiologically. It is important to get at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night to maintain sleep hygiene. Exercise always helps keep mind and body healthy and most certainly improves sleep.